How to Achieve Better Customer Engagement in the Phone Channel

Despite digital acceleration across all industries, the human touch remains an important quality in customer interactions.

One only needs to consider consumers’ opinions about interactive voice response (IVR) systems to appreciate that being connected to a human being quickly communicates a true commitment to customer service. While such connection can be critical for brands dealing with inbound callers, the same care and attention should extend to outbound calling practices to engage customers and achieve business goals.

Answering unknown calls is uncommon among Americans

According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans don’t answer a phone call from an unknown caller, and 14% don’t even listen to a voicemail that an unknown caller leaves. The prevalence of scams is one culprit, as nine in 10 adults believe that “people often (49%) or sometimes (42%) pretend to be someone else in order to try to steal people’s personal information.” Clearly, the outbound phone channel has trust issues. But by not having their calls answered, companies are losing opportunities to engage, inform and nurture relationships that build loyalty and revenue.

The phone channel remains an important relationship-building tool, and it needs to work both ways. Organizations obviously have greater control over how to address inbound calls and remove any friction in the customer journey when responding to an inquiry. Outbound, however, is another matter and encompasses multiple issues, from dealing with changing customer data to combatting intrusive and fraudulent behavior to complying with regulations.

For organizations seeking to connect with customers and prospects via the phone channel, there is hope for improving the likelihood that a call will be picked up. Accurate consumer data, meaningful phone behavior insights and additional context to incoming calls can all help organizations more easily connect with their customers.

Ensuring ongoing data accuracy

Pew Research estimates, 37% of Americans change some sort of personal contact information every year — their name, home address or phone number. Further estimates point up to 15% of CRM records becoming outdated in just one month. If organizations are updating their CRM data in monthly or quarterly batches, then their staff are likely working with old contact information and are ill equipped to achieve their contact objectives.

To have a chance of reaching customers, organizations must first begin with current contact information, and that information must be refreshed continuously to capture any deviations. Today’s sophisticated identity solutions draw on myriad authoritative data sources to continuously corroborate consumer and device identity data. Any changes to the data can be pushed to client CRM databases in real-time, ensuring that representatives are always working from clean and accurate information.

Reaching out at the right moment

Having the right phone numbers for a contact is half the battle; to truly improve right-party contact (RPC) rates organizations should know both the best time to call a particular consumer and the best number to use. Data can indicate when customers are most likely to pick up a call, pinpointing both the best days and times to call on those days. And if a customer has multiple numbers – landline and mobile numbers for example – analytics can point to the number and time that has the higher probable answer rate.

This not only increases the chance of having a positive connection with a consumer, but businesses can use this data to adjust staffing levels and take advantage of times when their contacts are available. With better consumer phone behavior intelligence, organizations can choose the optimal moment to engage, reaching their customers efficiently while staying compliant with the CFPB’s Regulation F “seven-in-seven” rule.

Improving the pre-call experience

Federal law mandates, in part, that voice service providers provide call-blocking services and call authentication at no cost to consumers. While these regulations are commendable, there is a drawback: legitimate calls from authentic businesses can be mistakenly mislabeled as spam or blocked. Many businesses don’t realize that their calls are being mislabeled and is the cause for their plummeting RPC rates. There are tech solutions that allow businesses to manage and customize their caller identity, mitigating erroneous call blocking while adding richer identity and context to their calls.

There are also branded calling solutions that include logos, location, and even the reason for the call on smart devices, all before a customer picks up. That can help improve answer rates by as much as 56% according to a Neustar commissioned survey. Businesses can also include any phone number used for outbound calling in an authoritative list of registered business numbers. This allows each outbound call, even across multiple carriers, to display an accurate and consistent caller name and number. These approaches all help customers to know that an incoming call is from a business they trust. At the same time, companies can better protect their reputation and help prevent scammers and spoofers from using their numbers fraudulently.

Leveraging data insights improves phone channel results

Insights into consumer phone behaviors are driving change in how enterprises that rely on the phone channel connect with their customers and prospects. By learning more about when and how people want to be reached, and applying those insights, organizations can connect at more opportune times and deliver a better experience to their customers.

About the Author

Jimmy Garvert is SVP for Neustar, a TransUnion company. Neustar, Inc., a TransUnion company, is an information services and technology company and a leader in identity resolution providing the data and technology that enables trusted connections between companies and people at the moments that matter most. Neustar offers industry-leading solutions in Marketing, Risk, Communications and Security that responsibly connect data on people, devices and locations, continuously corroborated through billions of transactions. Neustar serves more than 8,000 clients worldwide, including 60 of the Fortune 100. Learn how your company can benefit from the power of trusted connections here:

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